Hieu Minh Nguyen

Monthly, my family calls from Vietnamto inform us about the dead.Their voices amplified through the speakerphonewhile my mother sits upright in her bed& performs a variety of mundane tasks:sewing, word finds, removing nail polish.Of course I want to assume things:dead body, dead butter-yellow lawn—If I try hard enough, I can gathereach story, like marbles, into my mouthspit them into the drain & watch                                    as hair climbs out.Every month, a new body washes upin conversation:a great aunt, a dog, a cousin or two, but nowit’s my father’s first wife.Four-days-dead in her bathroommy uncle says                                    — she lived alone, abandoned                                    years earlier, by her husband.                                    Buried in a backyard                                    somewhere in that roadside village                                    the woman he left in Vietnam                                    to come to America                                    he promised he’d return                                    for her & their two sons                                    but instead married my mother.— well, she was found dead.Four-days-dead, in a bathroommy father once built for her.Buried in my uncle’s backyard.Had to kill the dog too.It kept trying to dig her out.Either anyone can be forgottenor only the forgotten can bringforth a good haunting, spanningthe chasm of the living, above whicha bridge made of ghosts, full of ghostswaiting to be summoned through                                    the receiverone by one by one by dead one.I can see them all                                    gatheringin the pixelated air. A patch of lightruptured by dust. I know my motherwill make a great ghost one day.They love her, the ghosts. They watch herall the time. She knows this, but she just sits thereunbothered, biting the seam of a white dressuntil it splits.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Hieu Minh Nguyen

Hieu Minh Nguyen is a queer Vietnamese American poet and performer based in Minneapolis. Recipient of a 2017 NEA fellowship, he is a Kundiman Fellow and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His work has appeared in PBS Newshour, Poetry, Gulf Coast, BuzzFeed, and more. His debut collection, This Way to the Sugar, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the MN Book Award. His second, Not Here, was released by Coffee House Press in 2018.

The Mass Review Special Issue

Special Issue: Asian American Literature

Amherst, Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts

Executive Editor
Jim Hicks

Poetry Editors
Franny Choi
Nathan McClain

Poetry-in-Translation Editor
Maria José Giménez

Founded in 1959 by a group of professors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke, and Smith, The Massachusetts Review is one of the nation’s leading literary magazines, distinctive in joining the highest level of artistic concern with pressing public issues. As The New York Times observed, “It is amazing that so much significant writing on race and culture appears in one magazine.” MR was named one of the top ten literary journals in 2008 by the Boston Globe.

A 200-page quarterly of fiction, poetry, essays, and the visual arts by both emerging talents and established authors, including Pulitzer and Nobel prizewinners, special issues have covered women’s rights, civil rights, and Caribbean, Canadian, and Latin American literatures.

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.